Dan earned his CompTIA (CIOS) certification in 2010 and worked in the computer repair/networking industry for several years.
At one point computers run optimally, then for no apparent reason, they run slow. The opening of files and programs, displaying web pages, and video streaming—are all noticeably under par. Even new computers right out of the box can be slow, which causes confusion with regard to performance—most people are under the impression that now computers should run optimally.
While it's true that computers work relatively well when turned on for the first time, some manufacturers often overdo it with unneeded system settings or trial software, causing slowness and performance issues. The culprits can widely vary although they are often relatively basic software issues—what this article mostly focuses on.
Whether new or used, there are some key troubleshooting points. The common causes to look for are startup programs, running antivirus software, malicious software itself, out-of-date or corrupted applications (or apps), internal storage capacity shortage, and insufficient RAM memory.
There are different ways to approach checking them, however, depending on the urgency, importance, and time constraints of the owner, seeking professional assistance might serve better. The concepts apply to the three most widely used operating systems—Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux.
When computer programs are installed, they are typically enabled to run when the computer powers on. If too many programs are enabled to run at the same time, it can cause the computer to run slowly. Operating systems have ways to disable programs from running during computer startup.
Operating system distributors' guidelines should be checked for the various steps. If using Microsoft Windows, one way to disable programs from running at startup time is by opening the Task Manager program, selecting the "Startup" tab, and disabling programs not needed when the computer is powered on.
Software that fights against malicious software comes with a variety of functions and packaging. When installed it's generally better to not accept default settings since it can overwhelm the computer and even interfere with user sessions.
One setting, in particular, is scheduled scans—the antivirus can be set to run on a schedule and even set to run if the last scan is missed. This is something that should be addressed immediately if the computer is being used for mission-critical work.
Furthermore, what's known as "real-time" protection in antivirus software can affect performance on your system—it's a function that constantly filters computer usage via a virus definition database and algorithms which has the potential to interfere with normal usage. Real-time protection is a function that can be turned off and in some cases, it should be.
When a computer is infected with a virus, the symptoms exhibited vary greatly. Computer crashes, slowness, and blue-screens are among them, but as it relates to slowness it's all too common. Virus infection is most common with computers running Microsoft Windows and there are various ways to remove malicious software.
Sometimes the removal of malicious software is complex and requires customized methods, but there are feasible approaches for a thorough scan. Other times, running the installed antivirus on a computer can rid the problem and restore the computer to a feasible operating speed. Be sure the antivirus software is up-to-date before scanning.
The general software configuration of a computer can change fast, so it helps to be mindful of what's being installed and what's going out of date. Microsoft provides updates for Windows on a regular basis—installing them, whether manually or automatically, can cause unintended performance issues.
If opting for manual installation, it's easier to know what's installed and when allowing easier mitigation of problems. If a computer doesn't seem right after an operating system update, revert back to the point before the update was installed. One way to accomplish this is by creating a restore point before proceeding with the first update attempt.
Computer program vendors also provide updates for software, wherein the same problems can occur. If installing an updated version of a program (or App) and there are problems, try reverting back to the old version or trying a work-around solution, until a long-term solution can be found.
Drive Storage and RAM
Operating systems require some unused space on the internal storage device to be used as a cache for system processes and routines. When there is not enough free space, not only can it slow the computer, it can cause various other problems and crashes.
Local and online stores sell USB drives that can be inserted easily which the computer owner can use to back up files before deleting them from the computer—allowing necessary free space.
Depending on what the computer is being used for, adding RAM memory can make a considerable difference in overall speed and general performance. When computers are purchased new, they typically come with a minimum amount of RAM installed even though the system is capable of handling much more.
Generally, computer program manufacturers recommend having a certain amount of RAM installed for optimal performance. If common tasks such as video streaming don't seem on par, adding RAM can help.
Computer Repair Plan
Average computer users don't have to be intimidated when carrying out these tasks although if there is uneasiness, professional consultation should be sought—avoid making the problem more expensive to repair. Some setups require specific knowledge to troubleshoot, and manufacturer documentation should generally be sought. Understand the scope of the job before taking anything apart or attempting to change computer settings.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Dan Martino